By Tom Serio
Running a public municipal marina for the city of Fort Lauderdale is a little different from running a private marina, according to Matt Domke, dockmaster at Las Olas Municipal Marina. But they do have mutual goals for the region.
“I may not have the same flexibility when negotiating a slip fee, as I have to go by the structured price list,” Domke said, but there are other features that appeal to boaters at his marina.
“When it comes to a marina destination, boaters are there to have fun, versus sitting in a yard where work is going on.”
At Las Olas Municipal Marina, Domke said, they rarely see the owners and cater more to the crew.
“We need to treat a yacht well. If not, they won’t be back,” Domke stated. He does have friendly competition with the other dockmasters and facilities, but said there’s plenty of business to go around.
Domke cut his teeth in the industry many years ago, first managing the city docks at the Downtown Marina and Cooley’s Landing on the New River for eight years, then moving down to the city of Hollywood, Florida, in 2016 for a few years.
“In Hollywood, the job was more on the government side and less hands-on with the marina operations. I did more grant applications and worked in an advisory role,” Domke said.
That may be why Domke wanted to return to his roots. “It was very different down there” he said, and he wanted to be back in Lauderdale.
As a child, the water was always an influencing factor in his life, thanks to his dad being in the Navy and his uncle racing GT tunnel hull boats. The bug really bit him around age 10, when his dad and uncle got a boat together.
“It was a 23 Wellcraft with a V8 Evinrude. My uncle liked to overpower his boats,” he said.
During high school, Domke worked as a boat mechanic. Then he jumped into the outboard world, working for Jackson Marine Center, followed by a stint at Marina One in Deerfield Beach.
“They have had the largest forklift in the area for over 25 years,” Domke said, noting that he operated that forklift as part of his eight years there.
Domke had a 100-ton captain’s license, mainly when performing freelance deliveries for Marina One.
He also was dockmaster at Harbor Island in the early 2000s, then ran Haulover Marine Center from 2003 to 2006.
Is there one thing Domke dislikes about his job?
“Pump outs! We have to offer this service and keep IT out of the water.”
Domke said he keeps busy with a boat of his own that he continuously tinkers with, as well as a one-off Steeda high-performance custom 1997 Ford Ranger pickup truck.
He looked into law enforcement as a career, but had second thoughts. “In yachting, I meet people when they are at their best, versus as a cop, I would meet them at their worst.”
By virtue of the Las Olas marina and others in the area, Domke feels that Fort Lauderdale stands apart from other regions, including Palm Beach.
“If you’re crew, owner or guest, there is something for everybody here,” he said. “We have a better selection and locations. We are the first call.”
Capt. Tom Serio is a freelance captain, writer and photographer. Comments are welcome below.